Fall's pleasures can seem all too fleeting, but there's still time to savor the season.
Thanks to Maryland's diverse landscape, picturesque vistas dot every corner of the state. Many are perfect for taking in fall's fiery foliage — whether the view is from a bike, train, car or even a kayak.
So come along for an easy autumn sojourn. We'll motor along historic roadways, meander or rush down rivers, and wind our way through majestic mountains, all within a few hours or less of Baltimore.
For more information, go to visitmaryland.org. To find out where fall foliage is peaking throughout the state, call 800-532-8371.
Pedaling the Eastern Shore
Fall's charms come alive in Talbot County, where visitors on two wheels can follow themed bike trails offering views of the Chesapeake Bay.
The 29.6-mile Oxford/St. Michaels trail is recognized as one of the best in the region. The picture-postcard town of St. Michaels also has designated nature trails that meander from the eastern limits to Railroad Avenue.
If you feel like a respite, head for the St. Michaels Marina to take a cruise on the scenic Miles River aboard the Patriot, a 65-foot steamboat replica in operation since the 1960s.
Information: For a bike map, call the Talbot County Office of Tourism in Easton at 410-770-8000 or go to tourtalbot.org. For cruises, call 410-745-3100 or go to patriotcruises.com.
Riding the rails in Walkersville
A turn-of-the century train just north of Frederick conjures up a time when the world passed by a little more slowly.
Aboard the Walkersville Southern, the ride — a little more than an hour — also means glimpsing a glorious procession of trees ablaze with color and pastoral farm country. The tracks, built by the Pennsylvania Railroad, date to 1872 and the passenger cars are vintage 1920s gems. Afterward, stop by the museum across the street to see how the rails tie into local history.
Trains run on Saturdays and Sundays in October, at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Mystery dinner, ghost and specialty trains run at various times during the year. Tickets are $10 for adults; $5 for children ages 3-13. Senior discounts are available.
Information: Walkersville Southern, 301-898-0899, wsrr.org
On the rivers of Maryland, its neighbors
The team at River and Trail Outfitters in Knoxville, Frederick County, launched its fall colors trips some three decades ago. Today, it does a brisk business giving adventure lovers a river view of the foliage, via raft, canoe and kayak.
"You'll see multicolored trees along the banks," says staffer Sonia Domarasky. "And there are beautiful stretches of mountains."
Itineraries vary, but options include the Shenandoah, Potomac and Monocacy rivers. The company can map your route or provide trained guides. Safety equipment and transportation to and from the rivers are included, along with a picnic lunch. Specialty trips range from gourmet camping/whitewater excursions to jaunts that stop for beer at a local microbrewery.
Knoxville is about an hour away from Baltimore. Costs vary, depending on what package you choose, but rafting trips start around $55 for adults; $49 for kids.
Information: River & Trail Outfitters, 888-446-7529; rivertrail.com
Exploring the Historic National Road
Some two centuries ago, American settlers in horse-drawn wagons heading west got there via a hybrid dirt-and-stone road that was the country's first federally funded highway. Authorized in 1806, the Historic National Road broke ground in Cumberland, took 40 years to finish and eventually stretched from Baltimore to Illinois.
Maryland's portion, about 170 miles, is hospitable to hikers, bikers, bird-watchers and nature lovers year-round.
In Frederick County, the road takes visitors through the towns of New Market, Middletown and Frederick. Traveling west, there are opportunities to hike the Appalachian Trail or take in stunning views from Washington Monument State Park. With scenery along the road including creeks and mountains, it's a sweeping way to experience an array of fall foliage.
Information: Allegany County Tourism office, 800-425-2067, mdmountainside.com.
Strolling historic Annapolis
Annapolis is famed for its history, sailing culture and quiet early American beauty. Visitors can stroll tree-lined streets, spying ancient oaks whose leaves have turned red and orange.
A fall getaway might include a stop at the leafy Naval Academy to watch noon formation at the "Yard," open Monday through Friday during the academic year, or a visit to the gardens and home of William Paca, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Various operators also provide walking tours, and don't skip a water taxi ride to nearby Eastport.
Information: Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau, 888-302-2852, visitannapolis.org.